Mercedes Lackey embraces fanfic and Creative Commons

Chris sez, "Mercedes Lackey's agent, who also represents a 'persuasive little gnome' named Cory Doctorow, has been talked around to the Creative Commons point of view. Hence, Misty has announced she is going to permit fanfic as long as it is released under a Creative Commons license (presumably a noncommercial one, though she does not explicitly spell this out on the site)."

Misty Lackey's work is well-loved by fanfic writers; this allows them to come in from the cold and produce their work (which celebrates her work) without fear of legal reprisals. Good move all around (and my agent, Russ Galen, is a smart cookie!).

What this means is: NO, you cannot make money on it. NO, you cannot self-publish a fanfiction novel of Valdemar (or any of my other stuff) and try and sell it on Amazon. And NO, I still am not going to read it, because I am already so far behind on my research reading I barely have time to read that.

But YES, you may write and post away, folks, so long as you license it as derivative and under Creative Commons. If it is anything other than PG-13, please take all the proper precautions to stick it somewhere that innocent souls won't be corrupted. Do not scare the children or the horses. Have fun!

News: Concerning Fanfiction: (Thanks, Chris!)


  1. I thought this was going to be about some shill for Daimler-Benz trolling the site: “Hey Cory, I love the way you publish your books and I love reading them after a long drive in the fabulous new E-Class with its traction control and intelligent breaking”.

  2. Most fanfic writers already add disclaimers (sometimes as succinct as “not mine; don’t sue”), and I assume that Lackey doesn’t have the time to check if fanficcers have expanded theirs to “not mine; don’t sue; used as per Ms. Lackey’s Creative Commons license.”

    So, my point is, this is nice and all, and it’s awesome that she’s decided to cc license her work, but I don’t think it’s going to change fan response significantly. The people who love her fiction are already writing fanfic and weren’t waiting for her approval. They may or may not append their disclaimers. They already knew they couldn’t sell their work.

    In sum, welcome to the status quo, Ms. Lackey.

  3. Query for Ms. Lackey: Is this limited to prose? (I’ve heard conflicting reports about how comfortable you were with having your older songs adapted/adopted.)

  4. rachelb, I think that’s true — fanfic writers’ behaviors likely won’t change much.

    What does change is that a well-known author is explicitly saying that she or her publisher will NOT sue someone who writes and posts fanfic, or a website that hosts it. She’s explicitly saying that noncommercial derivative works are okay with her. Up until now, putting a disclaimer on your story that said “not mine, don’t sue” did precisely nothing from a legal standpoint. If they wanted to sue, they’d sue.

    It’s more of a mindset change.

  5. That’s a change. Back on Usenet, her lawyer was known for popping into fan groups and denouncing fanfic.

  6. In the early 90’s, I used to be highly involved in her “Queen’s Own” fan community on GEnie. (Anybody remember CL/WELCOME? Embarrassingly enough, that was me.) As I recall, she pretty much encouraged fanfic with certain restrictions (chiefly about the use of her characters).

    Times have changed I guess.

  7. Hi Cory! It’s Misty. Um, lessee, verification, “Russ Galen’s hobby is gourmet cookery and he has three kids.” Thanks for the shout-out. What’s changed here is that Russ used to track down online fanfic sites and tell them to shut down or else. I have always supported fanfic (I started writing by writing fanfic) but Russ in the past has regarded it with the same warmth as one does a cockroach infestation. Now (my guess is) he regards it as one does a Chia Pet. Not something he wants, but…eh…ok. I will admit that certain kinds of fanfic squik me out, but like I said…not where children or horses will be frightened, and I am not about to be a brain censor. As for the songs–look, guys, before I wrote fanfic *I* was writing lyrics. Wouldn’t it be a lot more fun and creative if you wrote your OWN lyrics instead of mucking around with mine? Adapting mine would be the equivalent of rewriting one of the books. Why bother?

    OH! And don’t forget to visit our free superhero podcast (next year to be Baen books!) which ITSELF started out as fanfic!

  8. Upon further thought, it may well be it needs to be a *not* noncommercial CC license. If the purpose is to protect Misty legally if she should use some similar to idea in the fanfic in a book, then the fanfic would need to be under a license that permits commercial (as in, her published book) use.

  9. I know a Valdemar fan who refrained from writing the fanfic he had planned specifically because of Lackey’s ban. (Well, it’s the first part of a still-largely-unwritten larger series that has the protagonist traveling from universe to universe.) So the increase in fanfic being written might be more than you think. Remember, fans of an author’s work tend to want to respect said author’s wishes.

  10. It’s nice to hear news like this, but I’ve always had trouble appreciating how authors can feel such ownership of their work to ‘ban’ fanfiction in the first place. If you don’t like it, nobody’s forcing you to read it, and I’ve never heard of a fanfic author trying to make money off their work in any case. Worst case scenario, the fanfic is better than the original. In which case most of the readers will have read (& presumably bought) the original anyways, so no sales lost. Not that this is the best place to argue this! Oh for threaded commenting…

    I can see Caroline’s point though, nobody lives in fear of being sued for fanfic, but it’s a definite possibility. Being legit for a change is… interesting and I appreciate the gesture.

    I guess my point is, it’s nice that Ms Lackey has CC-licensed her book, but expecting fanfic writers to a) care enough about the author’s opinions to find out their stance on fanfic, b) know what a creative commons license is, and c) attach one of those buttons to every one of their fic is rather unrealistic. Better to just let us get on with it and trust to the community etiquette of disclaimers and noncommercial use.

    1. Hey, entropyred!

      The difference is something that is happening on the IP-owner end, more than anything.

      In the past, there has been a looming pressure on authors to “vigorously defend their copyright.” Failure to do so could, so the legal theory went, result in another writer taking the work and writing their own stories in a given world an attempting to sell them. If challenged, said theoretical copy-cat could point at all the fanfic and say, “Clearly, this author has never before stated their intent to protect their intellectual property.” And, if there was a mountain of material out there that the author hadn’t challenged, it could potentially constitute proof of the author’s de facto abandonment of their copyright.

      So what it amounted to was this: tolerating fanfic meant that you ran the (remote, but theoretically real) risk of someone, someday, being legally able to steal your intellectual property.

      Of course, if you didn’t tolerate fanfic, you kind of felt like an ass. I mean, the people who write fanfic are the /best/ and most fanatic fans you could possibly want. Fanfiction authors are the kinds of people who are so excited about your books that they just have to write more about them–and certainly they’re the kind of people who actively go out and hound poor innocents into reading the books they love. You’d have to be an /idiot/ not to want those folks playing on your playground.

      But… if they did, you ran the risk of losing the playground.

      A lot of authors I know have had a great deal of trouble locating any fanfiction about their work. Oh, they are ready to go out and defend their copyright, you betcha, but darned if they ever really see any fanfiction going on. And, often when a completely well-intentioned fanfiction writer very politely and thoughtfully wrote them to ask if they could please write fanfiction, the authors have replied with a “my official position is that I do not approve fanfic, despite the fact that it is sort of an idiotic thing to do.”

      Using the CC license to officially sanction fanfiction means that the author gets to relax about the (remote, theoretical) possibility of losing their exclusive copyright. Authors have a lot of instability in their lives. You never know how much you’ll make, if anything, during any given year. Using the CC license lets us not have to worry about having our original creations pass out of our copyrighted control.

      AND you get to make the most rabid and best kinds of fans happy!

      Double win!

      Jim Butcher

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